Matthew Katzman is an American citizen and Oxford University lecturer who is causing controversy for his role in a student group’s efforts to remove a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II from a wall at Oxford University’s Magdalen College.
Daily Mail reported: “The 25-year-old brought forward the measure to ‘cancel’ the Queen in his role as president of Magdalen’s Middle Common Room (MCR), which is made up of graduates.”
The Sun reported that Katzman is 25 and “the son of a top lawyer from Maryland.” According to NPR, the Queen’s portrait will be removed from a room at Oxford University’s Magdalen College because students expressed concerns about colonialism.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson tweeted, “Oxford University students removing a picture of the Queen is simply absurd. She is the Head of State and a symbol of what is best about the UK. During her long reign she has worked tirelessly to promote British values of tolerance, inclusivity & respect around the world.” Daily Mail reported that the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he supported Williamson’s comments. But others have supported the decision to remove the portrait.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Queen’s Picture Will be Replaced by Art of ‘Influential & Inspirational People’
According to The Sun, a majority of students voted to remove the portrait with one student saying that “patriotism and colonialism are not really separable.”
The portrait will be replaced by “art by or of other influential and inspirational people,” reported The Sun.
According to NPR, the college said the decision was up to the students; a group of students originally opted to hang the portrait up in the first place.
NPR noted, “British media are also noting that Magdalen’s middle common room is currently presided over by an American, Matthew Katzman.” Daily Mail blared, “Student who cancelled the Queen is a visiting AMERICAN: Post grad from Stanford tabled motion to take down royal portrait at Oxford’s Magdalen College as MPs line up to condemn move.”
Daily Mail noted that Katzman is “the son of a top lawyer at international firm Steptoe & Johnson. His family live in a £4million mansion in Washington DC.”
According to Daily Mail, Katzman, the son of commercial lawyer Scott Katzman, said the move did not “equate to a statement on the Queen” but was taken down to create “a welcoming, neutral place for all members regardless of background, demographic, or views.”
Katzman released a lengthy statement to Daily Mail that also read:
The Magdalen College MCR yesterday [Monday] voted to remove an inexpensive print of the queen that was hung in the common room a few years ago (a motion I brought forward in my role as MCR President as I do all motions raised in a sub-committee). It is being stored securely and will remain in the MCR’s art collection. The action was taken after a discussion of the purpose of such a space, and it was decided that the room should be a welcoming, neutral place for all members regardless of background, demographic, or views. he Royal Family is on display in many areas of the college, and it was ultimately agreed that it was an unnecessary addition to the common room. The views of the MCR do not reflect the views of Magdalen College, and the aesthetic decisions made by the voting members of its committee do not equate to a statement on the Queen. Indeed, no stance was taken on the Queen or the Royal Family – the conclusion was simply that there were better places for this print to be hung.
2. Katzman Teaches Students About Computer Science Concepts
On his LinkedIn page, Katzman says he’s a part-time lecturer at Jesus College Oxford for the past year and nine months.
“One of three academics selected to lead undergraduate computer science tutorials for Jesus College pupils,” he wrote. “Engage with students in private or semi-private lessons aimed at improving understanding of computer science concepts. Aid in college admissions and interviews as an associate member of the Senior Common Room.”
Before that, he was a “micro-intern” at Wattson Blue in London. “Dove into existing codebase to understand which algorithms were relevant to the tasks I was assigned,” he wrote. “Restructured and rewrote large portions of back-end software to significantly improve throughput.”
He was also a course tutor in artificial intelligence for Oxford’s Department of Computer Science.
He is getting his doctorate in Philosophy from Oxford, and his field of study is computer science. He expects to graduate in 2022.
He listed the following “Activities and Societies:” President of Computer Science Committee of Graduate Students, Algorithms and Complexity Representative on Joint Consultative Committee of Graduates, Student Chair and Computer Science Representative on Graduate Joint Consultative Forum of Mathematics and Physical/Life Sciences Division, Vice President of Magdalen College Middle Common Room, Team Leader in The Oxford Student Consultancy.
3. Katzman Graduated From Stanford University, Where He Played Trumpet & Led Weekly Religious Services; Raised in Washington D.C., a Bio Says He’s Interested in ‘Spartan Races’
On his LinkedIn page, Katzman noted that he attended Stanford University, receiving both a master’s and a bachelor’s degree. He was a tutor for students in STEM fields. “Led workshops teaching students LaTeX and introductory programming skills necessary for coursework,” he wrote.
He was also a course assignment for classes in artificial intelligence systems and theory.
He previously worked as an assistant trader intern at Susquehanna International Group, LLP (SIG) in 2017 and for the American Institutes for Research in Washington D.C.
In the latter position, he assessed and analyzed standardized testing. Under “Activities and Societies” at Stanford, he wrote: “Trumpet Section Leader and National Anthem Soloist for Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band, Trumpet Player, Stanford Wind Symphony, Financial Officer for Stanford University Jewish Student Association, Student Leader for Weekly Religious Services, Volunteer for Stanford University Science in Service, Volunteer Teacher for Stanford Splash.”
The Simons Institute has a bio of Katzman on its website. It reads,
Matthew Katzman is a first year PhD student at the University of Oxford studying complexity theory with Professor Rahul Santhanam. Raised in Washington DC, he moved across the country to attend Stanford University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree with honors in mathematics and his master’s degree in theoretical computer science. Matthew’s current research interests lie in the fields of pseudorandomness and derandomization, and their connections to algorithms and complexity theory as a whole. Outside of academics, Matthew’s interests include trumpet, Spartan Races and tennis.
His Instagram page is private, but it also labels him a “Spartan Racer.”
4. Katzman Attended Sidwell Friends, the School Where Obama Sent His Daughters
Katzman went to high school at the exclusive private school, Sidwell Friends, which is where the Obamas sent their daughters. Presidents Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, and Theodore Roosevelt also sent children to the school, which costs $48,000 a year, Daily mail reported.
He went there from 2010-2014.
Under “Activities and Societies” at Sidwell Friends, he listed, “Head of Sidwell Friends School Math Team, Player on Sidwell Friends School Tennis Team, Trumpet Player in Sidwell Friends School Jazz Ensemble.”
5. A Professor Defended the Move, Calling the Queen a Symbol of ‘White Supremacy’
More controversy generated when a Good Morning Britain guest claimed the Queen is the world’s “number one symbol of white supremacy.
Professor Kehinde Andrews is the UK’s first Black studies professor, according to the Sun.
He said, “If we’re honest the Queen doesn’t just represent modern colonialism, the Queen is probably the number one symbol of white supremacy in the entire world. A born to rule elite of this really white family. The head of the commonwealth which is actually the empire,” the Sun reported. “Even in that picture she’s wearing jewels stolen from different parts of the black and brown world.”
Others have blasted the decision. Oxford’s vice-chancellor Lord Patten told the Sun the decision was “offensive and obnoxiously ignorant,” saying, Freedom of speech allows even intelligent people to be offensive and obnoxiously ignorant,” he said.